Sides brace - and blame - ahead of spending cuts
February 24th, 2013
02:02 PM ET
2 years ago

Sides brace - and blame - ahead of spending cuts

(CNN) - Optimism for a last-minute deal averting massive across-the-board spending cuts was scarce Sunday, leaving lawmakers and governors squabbling over who will be to blame for the "meat cleaver" budget slashing set to take effect on March 1.

Congress returns to work Monday after a weeklong break, and while Senate Democrats plan to vote on a measure that would replace the cuts for one year, no feasible compromise plan appears in the works that would gain congressional approval before Friday.

"I won't put all the blame on the president of the United States, but the president leads. The president should be calling us over somewhere, Camp David, the White House, somewhere, and sitting down and trying to avert these cuts," Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said on CNN's "State of the Union" on Sunday.

Democrats, predictably, pinned the blame elsewhere.

"Unless the Republicans are willing to compromise and do a balanced approach, I think it will kick in," Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, a Democrat, said on "Fox News Sunday."

Even the effects of the cuts, known in Washington parlance as the "sequester," were in question, with Democrats and administration officials adamant they would spell disaster for education and transportation programs. While a large portion of the cuts will affect defense spending, there will also be a forced reduction of civilian program budgets, though neither side seems to agree on just how harsh those cuts will feel.

As part of the forced cuts, which total $85 billion, the Federal Aviation Administration will be required to slash $600 million from its budget. Appearing at the White House on Friday, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood warned those cuts would result in major delays at American airports.

Pressed by CNN Chief Political Correspondent Candy Crowley on Sunday why those cuts must result in delayed flights, LaHood explained that air traffic controllers consumed a substantial part of his agency's resources.

"We're going to try and cut as much as we possibly can out of contracts and other things that we do," he said. "But in the end, there has to be some kind of furlough of air traffic controllers, and that will also begin to curtail or eliminate the opportunity for them to guide planes in and out of airports."

Another Cabinet official, Education Secretary Arne Duncan, warned Sunday that thousands of schoolteachers could lose their jobs if the cuts take effect, saying on CBS there are "literally teachers now who are getting pink slips, who are getting notices they can't come back this fall."

"We don't have any ability with dumb cuts like this to figure out what the right thing to do is. It just means that a lot more children will not get the kinds of services and opportunities they need," Duncan said.

Those claims were met with skepticism from some Republicans, one of whom alleged Obama and his allies were "absolutely" exaggerating the impact of the cuts.

"The American people, we see all these claims about what a tragedy it's going to be," Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma said on "Fox News Sunday," pointing to statements from LaHood and Homeland Security boss Janet Napolitano.

"They have plenty of flexibility in terms of discretion on how they spend money," Coburn said. "There are easy ways to cut this money that the American people will never feel. What you hear is an outrage because nobody wants to cut spending."

Another Republican, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, called the dire warnings from Obama administration officials merely "great political theater about how cutting less than 3% of the federal budget can cause all these awful consequences."

'Here is [Obama's] chance to say, 'Here is how we can do it better.' The reality is the federal budget, even after the cuts, will be larger than last year's budget," Jindal said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Other governors, both Democratic and Republican, sounded resigned to the reality of the budget cuts taking effect Friday. The state executives are gathered in Washington for the winter meeting of the National Governors Association, and will hear from Obama at a dinner Sunday evening.

"These are job-killing cuts, and we have to find a way to avoid them," Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley said on CBS' "Face the Nation."

His neighbor, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, also said some kind of fix was necessary to avoid the huge defense budget cuts that would affect his state in particular.

We've got to get the job done. It's been 18 months. The sequester was put in place to be a hammer, not a policy, and now here we are just a week away from getting it done," McDonnell said.


Filed under: Budget • Congress • White House
soundoff (22 Responses)
  1. Give me a break

    The sky is falling! The sky is falling!

    None of you actually believe any of this nonsense is actually going to happen, do you? Even if the sequester happens, we will be spending 5 billion + more than what we did last year. This is utter nonsense. Sick of the scare tactics from ALL our elected officials on BOTH sides.

    February 24, 2013 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  2. jkane sfl the gop national disgrace party will be swept out like the trash they are in2014 ?

    All gop s fault. The gop has never had a sucessful economic policy, ever and has accomplished nothing for the last five years except lose two presidential elections !!!!!

    February 24, 2013 03:15 pm at 3:15 pm |
  3. joepa14221

    These are not spending cuts they are reductions in increases. Lets get serious and call them what they are.

    February 24, 2013 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  4. Larry L

    Who has been holding America hostage at every opportunity? Republicans.
    Who caused our S&P rating to be lowered? Republicans.
    Who has only defended the wealthy? Republicans. Who took pledges to Grover Norquist? Republicans.
    Who actually has a large membership in favor of defaulting on our debt? Republicans.
    Who has a large group of Tea Party radicals who want the sequester? Republicans.

    February 24, 2013 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  5. Josie

    I'm not a economist but I'm tired of the only people that will hurt after these budget cutts will be "us, the people". How about every congressmen or woman, house or senate member agree to take a pay cut themselves! They are ok cutting funds for schools, defense why not cut their money as well. Really they want to cutt funds to our mental Health programs, our children headstart,our food inspection program,our homeland security really we need all the security we could get...north Korea already started testing nuclear bombs...really I don't feel safe! Thanks to our government for looking out for our best interest...chinese hackers and north Korea can now really attack us now that our security funds will be cut!

    February 24, 2013 03:39 pm at 3:39 pm |
  6. RINO Bill

    Too bad you clowns never heard about compromising.

    But that's OK, I am taking names down and come the next election I will not vote for any senator or representative that did NOT reach across the aisle.

    February 24, 2013 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  7. gloria

    The exageration is real. My daughter in law is a teacher in rural Nebraska. She has a meeting with the school board 3/4 where she will be informed if she has a job in the fall. They have just had a baby and bought a house in July. I find that the timing coincides with the the sequester to be more than coincidence.

    February 24, 2013 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  8. LMB

    Interesting that McCain complains about the President being at Camp David giving the impression that he's out of the loop, while the 2nd paragraph clearly states that Congress just returned from a one week break...what a bunch of BS!

    February 24, 2013 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  9. Paul

    Republicans are trying to talk "tough", but I will bet that within a few weeks they will be asking to restore cuts to defense. When Dems balk they will be crying that the Dems are not keeping this country safe and they are weak on defense. Any wagers???

    February 24, 2013 03:58 pm at 3:58 pm |
  10. Mandor

    Nonstop I hear certain politicians saying "the president should be leading". Why? Honestly, why? This isn't a major crisis. This is a situation where the House and Senate need to DO THEIR JOB and HONOR THEIR OATHS that they took when they assumed office. They should not require presidential leadership just to do their job. If they are incapable of that without outside leadership, they should resign in disgrace.

    February 24, 2013 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  11. John

    It because the Republican Control Congress and It leadership can't get noting done, This Is why their favorable rating It at 17% and they have become to be know has the do nothing congress,and the congress of NO.

    February 24, 2013 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  12. MICHAEL WHITE

    How ridiculous! These aren't even real cuts in the real sense of the word. So, for example, let's say last year we spent $10 million dollars and this year, instead of spending $12 million dollars, we are only going to spend $11,640,000. So, all they really did is reduced the amount of the increase versus really decreasing the actual budget. If they really decreased the actual budget, it would be less then the previous year. And they call this an outrage!

    February 24, 2013 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  13. icurheinie

    Nobody said it wouldn't be painful, but we can't continue to borrow from our children and grandchildren by maxing out our government credit card and then just keep increasing it's limit. We have got to be responsible, pay down our bills, and get our credit rating back.

    February 24, 2013 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  14. Randy, San Francisco

    Blame lies with the Republcian/Tea Party who rather see the economic health of this nation suffer than make the 1% pay their fair share. When the indiscriminate cuts start to hurt the wealthiest 1%, Republicans/Tea Partiers will do a Flip Flop and agree to a compromise.

    February 24, 2013 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  15. jpmichigan

    The chicken have come home to roust, thank you Mr. President, the sequester you initiated, that was supposed to happen, just may happen. No one in the White House thought it would happen, but in reality it should just to prove there is no leadership coming from the White House. The House passed to bills to fight off the sequester, which won't see light of day in the Senate because it doesn't offer new taxes. That is what the so called crisis initiated by the White House must contain, more taxes, that is the game plan. So buckle up Americans for the Democratic bus of crisis after crisis, from this administration is trying hard to keep moving forward. Well, enough is enough, let see how the sequester will real work, for money can move around, from less needed places to those who really need it (defense) and take on any disasters.

    February 24, 2013 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  16. MARK WEST

    In this news article, "Education Secretary Arne Duncan warned Sunday that thousands of schoolteachers could lose their jobs if the cuts take effect". Schools are funded by state taxes, not by the Federal government. What are they talking about? Sounds like the Democrats are trying to whip up alot of fuss over something that is plain false! Can't their politicizing stop?!

    February 24, 2013 04:18 pm at 4:18 pm |
  17. jeff

    Randy- If you took 100% of the income of the top 1% it would not make a small dent in the deficit. Can we please get real?

    February 24, 2013 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  18. lottie

    the republican congress are in for a rude awakening if we go down the tubes. Of course we will blame them. The president has a plan on the table where are their ideas. They just keep lying and idiots believe them. The party is in a mess.

    February 24, 2013 04:24 pm at 4:24 pm |
  19. rs

    Facts:
    1. Sequester Bill written in the House
    2. House Speaker Boehner crows that he got 8% of what he wanted in the Sequester in exchange for not shutting down the government
    3. Sequester passes House and Senate with almost unanimous Republican support in the House and Senate
    4. It IS a Republican Bill
    5. Now the GOP is scared of what will happen if their disaster bill goes into effect, but too ideological to shut it off.
    6.The GOP will wreck the economy (again) and the recovery
    7. For the GOP they would much rather go against the President of the United States than work for Americans
    8. 5 days until America turns on the GOP for good

    February 24, 2013 04:50 pm at 4:50 pm |
  20. Sam

    Ask Not For Whom The Bell Tolls.

    February 24, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  21. Steve

    Two weeks ago I took my money out of the stock market and pension funds.

    February 24, 2013 04:51 pm at 4:51 pm |
  22. Martha in CF

    The media should play Boehners 'I got 98% of what I wanted' on every news station, radio station for as many times possible next week up to March 1. And what is this congress taking off. That haven't proven to deserve any time off.....And congress working around 160 days this year-it is obsurd. Pay cuts for ALL of congress. No benefits either!!!!!

    February 24, 2013 04:55 pm at 4:55 pm |